Fresh fruits and vegetables have increasingly become responsible for many cases of food-borne illness. For example, between 1990 and 2003, there were at least 554 food-borne outbreaks associated with vegetables, and these outbreaks resulted in approximately 28,000 illnesses and several deaths (Dewaal et al. 2006). Therefore, it is important to develop effective solutions to reduce the burden of food-borne disease related to the production of fresh produce.
Currently, sampling methodologies and diagnostic testing of fresh produce to determine the presence of food-borne bacterial pathogens is accomplished by testing a multitude of environmental samples using a variety of methods, to ascertain the presence of the target organisms. In some cases the product itself is tested, but standardized parameters such as what determines a lot of product, sampling size (especially from fields that contain many acres of product), and sampling methods (when, where, and how to sample), are nonexistent.
Since sampling of produce in the field is problematic in terms of obtaining a sample that is representative of the entire field, it is proposed that water (irrigation and wash water) used in the production of fresh produce be tested for the presence of food-borne pathogens. Due to the low concentrations of pathogens found in such water, a method, capable of concentrating bacteria from large volumes of water should be employed prior to the detection methodology.
The objective of this project is to develop rapid and cost effective water concentration methods that can efficiently concentrate food-borne pathogens from water, and to couple the concentration methods with downstream detection methods to develop integrated sampling and detection methods capable of reliably testing produce water for food-borne pathogens.
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